Born in a refugee camp in Thailand, my family immigrated to the U.S. just a few months before my second birthday. Shortly after I turned two, my parents, who barely spoke English, found themselves seeking answers for their daughter’s eyes. The shaking of the eyes grew so intense, it was causing my head to shake. Once the shaking slowed down, my left eye had pulled to the left. All the strange medical terms given to them were beyond their comprehension. Some said my eyes would get better before I began school, and others told them I would eventually loose all of my eyesight. You could only imagine the distress and despair they felt. Was this their doing? If they could surgically replace my eyes with theirs in order to fix mine, they would have done it in a heartbeat. What sort of future did their little girl have ahead of her with limited vision?
Their little girl went through life trying to see like her sighted siblings. Their little girl tried keeping up with her sighted peers, but never quite felt good enough because she couldn’t see well enough. Their little girl hid her tears behind thick glasses, which didn’t work, and large print books, which she could barely read. Their little girl somehow made it all the way through high school faking it. Then, their little girl realized that she was exhausted.
No more faking it to make it. It was time to be it!
How did I make the switch? I put life on hold, college on hold, a budding relationship with a boy on hold, and I left my life in California for what many of us call, the Bootcamp for the Blind. At the Louisiana Center for the Blind, I not only learned the blindness skills taught through their Structured Discovery Method, I learned that it is respectable to be blind. I learned how to not rely on my unreliable eyesight. I learned to travel confidently with a long white cane. I learned Braille, feeding my love for literacy. I learned that I could independently cook a meal for 40, get dropped off in a strange place in town and find my way back to the center, and while mastering power tools in a wood shop, I learned to slow down, power through with precision and patience, and trust that I had all the power to conquer anything.
I learned and fell in love with the positive philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind, that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. I learned to let go of low vibration words like low vision, words that did nothing but perpetuate low self worth. I learned to embrace the B word.
Today, that little girl is about to celebrate ten years of marriage with that boy mentioned above, and they have a little girl and little boy of their own. Her little girl gets to experience life with blindness, just like her mommy. Everyday, we raise low expectations, because low expectations are what stand between blind people and our dreams. Everyday, with my little ones absorbing my every move, my every mistake, my every learning moment, my conquests, I live the life I want as a blind mom in the burbs.
Do you have an email address I can contact you on?
I’m Sydney, and I work on the research team at Google. Right now, we are looking for participants to take part in an Accessibility research study. We’d love to connect with you to see if you and others you know might be interested in helping make our products more accessible. Please let me know if you’re interested in this, and I can send along further information.
Sure. What can I do, and how can I help?
Hi Terri, it’s a pleasure to meet you and I can’t wait to read your posts!! ~Steph
Terri I cried through reading it. I can relate with so much of it. Your parents are now so proud of their little girl!
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I know! Our stories are so similar. I totally cried when I watched your video.
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I’m Piper, but my pseudonym when commenting on blogs is Solution Seeker. I can totally relate to your story. As a blind woman myself, I’ve struggled grately in the past, but continue to do my best to unlock my potential and ultimately make a difference in my community and even to the world at large. I just want to say that you’re such an inspiration to so many people out there. Keep doing what you’re doing!
I look forward to reading your blog posts,
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Hi Piper, thanks so much for dropping by my blog. The best thing we can do as human beings is to continue moving forward.
Terri, I have read posts from your blog, but today is the first time I read your story. I am so grateful to know you. You confirm for me all the decisions we’ve made about raising our son as an independent, well-trained, blind person. When we heard he was going blind at the age of 10 all we could think about is preparing him for visual deterioration. We didn’t want to waste time “denying” it and we didn’t want him to fear vision loss. We wanted him to thrive and know it’s just a part of his life’s story. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. I love that my son has people like you to look up to. Hugs, Kim
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Thank you so much Kim. This is just one reason why I share so openly about my life.
Terri, I totally agree with you. Like Dori constantly says in Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming.”